Kawakawa Primary School kids snatched this year's Puff and Pull trophy from defending champs Bay of Islands College by a fraction of a second.
Held in Kawakawa on Sunday, the annual carnival sees teams compete to pull the 28-tonne vintage locomotive Gabriel the length of the town's main street in the shortest time.
In the community category - contested this year by rugby teams, firefighters and a butcher's shop - the Taniwha again out-muscled the competition to retain the trophy. Primary schools can field teams of up to 40, with secondary schools limited to 20 and adult teams 16.
One of the new attractions this year was a test of strength involving machines. The mechanical tug-of-war pitted Gabriel's steam power against two Humber Pigs, armoured cars built in 1956 for the troubles in Northern Ireland. They were abandoned in England and brought to New Zealand by Roger Crowden of Kawakawa's Sunbeamland Museum. Gabriel won, but only on the third attempt and after a towing chain snapped.
The puffing and pulling was followed by prizegiving and a gala in Johnson Park, with Paddy McGinty's All Night Monkey Revival Band providing the music while Mr Crowden offered rides on a vintage traction engine.
Originally a fundraiser for the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust, the event has since morphed into a community get-together. Sport Northland took on the job of organising this year's carnival, which started with a sponsored walk.
Organising committee member Chris Williams said the crowd was well up on last year and the number of teams one less than the event's capacity.
"This is a unique event in the world. Nowhere else can you close the country's main highway so a bunch of schoolkids and rugby teams can pull a train up and down the street."
Opua 50.38s; Karetu 51.58; Pakaraka 41.69 (team numbers made up by adults, not included in trophy); Kawakawa 41.75; Waikare 42.00; Bay of Islands College 41.96.
Central Butchery 1m 6.41s; Moerewa Tigers 1m 12.45s; Otiria Rugby 1m 9.60s; Paihia Fire Brigade 1m 42.01s; Kawakawa Fire Brigade 1m 25.70s; Northland Rugby 1m 0.45s.